Candid Advice From A Guardian Ad Litem

The Minnesota Guardian Ad Litem Program provides advocates who represent the best interests of abused and neglected children in court. They play a pivotal investigative role in protective services cases, and other situations involving allegations of endangerment of a child.

The Minnesota courts web site provides a number of resources for litigants who may encounter a Guardian Ad Litem as part of their case:

Helpful post this week from Ben Stevens’ South Carolina Family Law Blog. A trusted colleague of Stevens, Joanne Hughes Burkett,  family court Guardian Ad Litem, authored a guest article for parents entitled “What This Guardian Ad Litem Wants Parents and Parties to Know.”

Here’s what Burkett says:

  • A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is not your child’s guardian. A guardian is a person who legally has the care and management of a child. Typically, this is a parent. The role of the Guardian ad Litem is to assist the Family Court Judge in ascertaining the best interests of your child.
  • The Guardian ad Litem will NOT make the final decision about custody and visitation. Only the Family Court Judge can make that decision. The Guardian ad Litem’s report is only one of the things the Judge will consider in deciding what is best for your child.
  • The Guardian ad Litem’s role as legal advocate for your child ends at the Final Hearing, unless that Order is appealed. We are not their GAL forever.
  • You control how expensive the case is, and, by and large, the Guardian ad Litem’s fee, which you will have to pay. Be careful not to run up the bill.
  • If you think there is something the Guardian ad Litem needs to know, tell your lawyer first. It could affect the strategy of your case. If the GAL needs to know, your lawyer can write, fax, call, or email the information.
  • What you tell me is NOT confidential. Because I am not your lawyer, I do not have a duty to keep in confidence anything you tell me.
  • I cannot give you legal advice, so if you have questions or concerns, talk to your attorney.
  • All Guardians ad Litem do their work differently. Ask your lawyer how to best work with the GAL in your case.
  • The less a child knows about the litigation, the more impressed I am with the parties.

Thanks to Ms. Burkett for her thoughts.